August 11, 2017 8:29 pm
Selling your home can be an emotional undertaking to say the least. Most people have fond memories of the years in their home and all the good times that made it a home. Maybe you’ve even invested a little sweat equity that resulted in a much richer experience. It’s difficult to part with all the warm fuzzies. And now—it’s time to move on.
You’ve lived in your home and understand many of its qualities and quirks. Now is the time to get to know the house even better as you take an objective look at its selling potential. You want the best price and relatively short, smooth sailing. You don’t want to be the one with the sad story to tell. I’ve learned how to avoid some of the inevitable stress and get the job done. In this article, I’ll explain why it pays off to have a pre-listing home inspection. Let’s take a look.
Here are considerations for conducting a home inspection before you sell and what it will do for you and your potential buyers.
1. Don’t underestimate your potential buyer’s anxiety.
You know it can be stressful to think about selling your home and all the steps needed for a successful outcome. Remember that it can be just as stressful for the buyer, maybe even more so. They are making one the biggest purchases of their lives and they want to get it right. Naturally, they are concerned about the financial repercussions and don’t want any additional financial surprises once the deal is done. Perhaps they’ve seen the movie The Money Pit! Cha-Ching! It might be funny, but not if it’s happening to you.
When buyers compare houses, they are looking for possibilities that will suit their preferred lifestyle and their finances. They will receive input from their realtor who will most likely have a lot of experience looking for warning signs that there could be problems in the future. They might also be advised to have a home inspection before buying. Anything that shows up on that very-detailed-report will cause them concern and give them second thoughts.
Many a deal has fallen through because the buyer received news about issues that they interpreted as significant. These don’t necessarily have to be major structural issues. Some people will run from most any issue if it sounds like more money, time or inconvenience.
The far better tactic is to choose the proactive approach. Hire a home inspector and, for a reasonable fee, you will find out first which items buyers or lenders might view as a problem. Once you are armed with that information, you can make a choice about how to best handle each item on the list. These potential problems will then be managed long before a buyer hears about them and can be turned into a selling point rather than a deal breaker.
2. Find a reputable home inspector.
Once your decision is made to hire an inspector, your next task is to find a reliable, experienced professional. You can ask your realtor or friends for recommendations and you can check out websites and reviews online. You can interview your top 2 or 3, comparing credentials, training and professional affiliations. You’ll want someone who can work within your timetable to conduct a thorough analysis of the structural integrity of the house, as well as the age, condition and functional quality of mechanical, electrical, appliances, and major interior and exterior factors.
Ask about the type of report you will receive. It should be lengthy with detailed descriptions and photos. Some inspectors will also offer a home warranty in case something malfunctions before the closing. In this case, you’d be covered.
Once you have an appointment for your home inspection, be sure to clear access to all entry points that might not typically be used in your daily routine. This includes access to the attic, crawl space, mechanical equipment, fuse boxes, overhead storage, etc. Making it easy for the inspector will produce better results in a quicker time frame. Ask when your report will be ready and when you can discuss the results.
3. Prepare before your home inspection.
You can make the inspection process even better by doing a quick inspection of your own. Here are some of the items that will be checked and a few suggestions of things you can do ahead of time to eliminate minor issues that are already obvious. In all areas, if you have made improvements or replacements, make copies of the receipts for proof of age and condition.
- Structural: foundation, basic structure, roofing, flashing, vents, chimneys, stairs.
- Systems: mechanical, furnace, air conditioner, humidifier, hot water heater, water softener, water purifier, electrical, wiring, switches, fuses, alarms. Clear access, change filters and burned out light bulbs. You’ll have to do this anyway.
- Plumbing: showers, tubs, toilets, faucets, drains, sump pumps, water leakage.
- Exterior: siding, fascia, soffits, gutters, downspouts, caulking, windows, screens, doors, trim, lighting, garage doors and remotes, stairs, handrails, sidewalks, driveways, decks, patios, porches, balconies, trees, landscaping, grading and retaining walls.
If you want to get a head start, you can clean up flower beds and lawns. If you know caulking is needed and you can handle this yourself, go for it. Also, if your gutters are a mess, you can hire that out and cross one more thing off your list.
- Interior: attic, insulation, ventilation, windows, floors, doors, fans, fireplaces, wood stoves, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, crawl space, stairs, storage areas, closets. They will also check for cracks in the ceilings and walls that might indicate foundation issues.
Make sure doors and windows open, close and lock and check for damaged screens. Your home inspector or realtor will let you know if you need to add detectors to meet code.
- Appliances: oven/range, microwave, refrigerator, dishwasher, washer, dryer. All appliances that will remain with the house will be inspected. Dryer vents will also be checked.
- Water or pest damage: any past or present damage or possible future issues from water, rodents or insects.
A home inspector’s analysis is quite impressive and you can see by this partial checklist that you will be receiving a comprehensive report that will make your life much easier. No more guessing about critical details or important projects that can influence the sale of your home.
4. Discuss your report and decide on action items.
Your detailed report will serve to help you prepare purposefully for your sale. It will include all pertinent data on the condition of the house as well as suggestions for actions you can take to increase the chances for a quicker sale at a higher price.
The seller who prepares well for a sale has a clear advantage over a seller who disregards the details. Home buyers will always look at the details, and they will ask pointed questions about any items that may cost money later. This will start negotiations on lowering the price which you would rather avoid.
Once you have discussed the report with your home inspector and realtor, you can make a list of items to repair or replace. You can make an informed decision on whether the time, effort and money will make a positive difference. You will want to take care of any safety concerns and then decide on which other projects will help leverage your sale. If you decide some of the projects aren’t worth the expense, you will be prepared to negotiate that at the time of the sale.
If, for instance, you have several electrical issues, you can hire an electrician to make one trip to improve that situation and bring everything up to code. You can prove with your receipt that this work was done professionally. If there are repairs or clean up you can do yourself, you can work on similar projects for better efficiencies, or work on one room at a time. If you make a plan and set deadlines, it will happen much more quickly and with less stress.
As you check off your work items, you’ll be thrilled to see the progress. Even better is the knowledge that each item you improve adds value to your home (and substantiates your asking price).
5. Put your house on the market and include documentation for buyers.
Your realtor will prepare some informational items for buyers to see, and most likely, a fact sheet that they can take with them for comparison purposes. When looking at many homes, it’s easy to forget certain features of each home, and you don’t want them to forget the fine features of your home!
For effective selling points after your home inspection and repairs, you can provide documentation for buyers to review that proves:
- your home was inspected and professionally evaluated as safe and secure.
- you have made suggested improvements and repairs (show receipts).
- you have replaced appliances or made improvements while owning the house (show receipts).
One note of caution: if you have been advised of an issue during the home inspection, you should disclose it. You don’t want anything coming back on you later. Your realtor will advise you on this.
This type of tangible proof will provide peace of mind to even the most cautious buyers because their questions and concerns have been answered. They now know that the house is less risky than others and will rate much higher on their list of prospective purchases. You will not have to worry about negotiating or dropping the price because the buyer can plainly see the value. This is validation for your asking price.
It’s not always easy to keep your home tidy and ready for showings at the spur of the moment, especially if you have an active family schedule. A pre-listing home inspection can actually speed up the buying process since you have proof of condition. You won’t have the disappointment of getting poor reviews and then have to do the work anyway. It will already be done, and your house will make a good impression on buyers.
With the proactive planning and preparation behind you, buyers will have greater peace of mind to make their decision with confidence. We hope you’ve seen the benefits of conducting a pre-listing home inspection. This strategy makes the process much less stressful for everyone.
As the home seller, you can make informed decisions to undertake selected repairs, offer copies of documents and receipts as proof of condition and value, and create a smoother transaction for all involved. If you have enjoyed this article and gained motivation to get started, please share it with a friend who might also benefit. Thank you and best of luck with your sale!